The L-Space Web: The Timelines: The Hourglasses of AFP

The Hourglasses of AFP

December 2000


Subject: [I] Hourglasses
From: Smiley
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000

Hello You Out There

This might be or become {C}, but it's definitely not {R}.

I finally got started on the long planned reread of the DW series, starting at the beginning for a change, and came up with some questions and thoughts that aren't really important and an idea that might turn out to be interesting.

People here know each other something between not at all and very well indeed. So for the first category to get to know each other and the second category better, how about a description of what you imagine your hourglass would look like, if you had one in Death's lifetime room?

Something like fluffy pink with ribbons and bunny ears, or yellow with red and green stripes and one of those cocktail paper umbrellas at the top.

Mine would be black with the occasional eye twisting neon green stripe and pink dot, and look like a 4D-model of one of those Escher paintings, or possibly all of them in one.


From: littlejohn

excellent idea,

belonging to the section that knows no one, I can lie as much as I like:-

mine would be made of balsa wood, battered and bashed and inexpertly repaired so many times theres no space for wood worm, and flowing eratically.


From: Miq

Mine would be quite plain, in a cheerful pale wooden frame, and filled with veeeeery fine sand - dust, almost - drifting so slowly you could barely see it move.


From: Kalle Lintinen

I'd have something on the lines of light wood panelling, with the top side with strictly carved geometrical shapes, whereas the bottom halve would have cubistic/fractal patterns burned on. The hole for the sand would be wide indeed, but the sand flowing wouldn't be anxious to come down, spiralling gently down, like waiting for the reality to catch up and drop all of the sand in one go. The glass itself would be clear and strict on form on the top, but having light shades of green and blue with an occasional swirl on the surface.

I'm not a schitzophrenic you know, I just get these headaches


From: Flesh-eating dragon

The presence of fractals was my first thought, too.

The fractal on 'The Path of Links' and 'The Path of Creativity' on my webpage is the sort of thing I have in mind.

It would have some symbolic reference to religion, creativity, and a whole host of other things. But I really don't want to design it! There is too much subtlety lost if I design my own, IMO.


From: David Sander

You know something - I'm having enormous difficulty imagining what my lifetimer might look like.

At one point I thought it might be constructed expertly out of driftwood (including the "glass")

Then I thought maybe it would be better made of very severely defined lines in the blackest black of materials (sort of like the material used to make the monoliths from "2001: A Space Odyssey"), with whiter than white sand running through glass so fine and perfect that it's invisible.

After settling on that one, I then had the thought that maybe it would be made of a fine blue glowing white tracery, sort of like a very advanced CGI wireframe image, having a very fine - almost liquid - dust sloughing gently downward...

I dunno ... ... maybe the convoluted shape of the multiverse suggests that it's all three - plus others I haven't thought of yet.

Bloody good question, Smiley. You get a ... er ... smiley stamp for that one.


From: Sylvain Chambon

Hmmm... Now that's a difficult question I would say.

I expect it would be a rather twisted shape when seen close by, but pretty plain when seen from a normal distance. With an overall unfinished look, like if the manufacturer had begun his work with an idea, then got an idea for another glass bubble design and tried to implement it, but in the middle imagined with great concept for replacing the sand, but of course before all the sand was replaced figured out it would make an ugly contrast with the wooden casing design, so would proceed to replace it by something else, ...

... and after a certain amount of time, thought "oh what the hell" and left it at that. After all, it performs its function and has some innovative designs (half-)implemented in...


From: Mary Messall

Mine's all glass, but it looks hand blown, with strange bulges, a shape possibly akin to a Klein bottle. It's got that wavy effect of old window glass, and it's definitey leaded, so has that weird shine. Graphite dust (the sand) coats the insides translucently, giving a kind of "smoked" effect.

Mary (quite convinced that this is what her hourglass looks like.)


From: Jens Kleine

I think mine would have black and white sand seperated in the upper section and after it falled down to the lower section it looks all grey. The glas would be kind of dark black and hard to see trough, deep in itself. There is no wood only black fabric. Not really black but the colour of darkness. You would find my hourglas in the cornor hidden in misty darkness and clouds of dark fog.


From: melcha

Hmmm...Quite a puzzler...

Mine would have blue glass, and the sand would fall (mostly) downwards in great chunks or drift lightly to rest, depending on how interesting my life got at any given moment. The frame would be made of driftwood, carved with cats, books, lasagna and possibly Yoda. (What? He's my favorite movie character.)


From: Beth Winter

Oh, I can see it:

At first, it appears to be the usual black, twisted cast-iron number of traditional shape. But there is a nagging feel in the observer's mind that something is not right. The shape isn't exactly like an hourglass.. the proportions are just enough out of joint that they look like something from another spacetime continuum, one with misplaced dimensions and a twisted aesthetics.

Noticing this requires the level of focus that also makes you realize that it's not either cast iron or black. The material is a tight filigree of stone and soft metal, and the color is actually a whole rainbow of black shades... tertiary colors twist and flutter among the carvings, which feel frozen in time, in one instant of melancholy happiness and joyous despair. There are whole countries there, and every figure, every hero, every child, every tree, is a world unto itself, with countless details that drag the eye through levels of complexity, deeper and deeper and...

And as, after minutes or hours, you snap out of that trance, there is one last thing you notice: you can't see how much sand is there. There is some, and it's pouring, because you can hear the irregular violin-like sound of grains sliding down glass. But the bulbs are opaque and reflective, and as you stare at them you see a pair of brown-green eyes.

anyone want to psychoanalyze this?


From: Simon Callan

In my case, the timer would look a bit 'geeky' in some way, though I'm not sure how. I also would expect there to be two seperate 'tubes' connecting the top of bottom bulbs, reflecting the two 'mes' that exist.


From: Kincaid

A solid block of brushed aluminium, with a machined vertical groove which is inset with a row of blue LED's.

I's a gadget freak, innit?


From: Paul E. Jamison

H'm. Hard to say. Traditional model or hi-tech? Both could be valid. It would likely be a deceptively simple design. Wouldn't look like much, but the sands run very deep.

What makes my hourglass distinctive is easy it is to leave tracks in that sand. A friend in need, a sad story, a happy memory, a sad song, a little animal - they'll walk across the surface of the sand and the tracks they leave will be deep and will linger for a long time. The latest set of tracks come from an elderly ferret who came into my house in October and who passed from this world in November. His feetprints are very deep, indeed.


From: Quantum Moth

Oh, like an eggtimer. A plain, ordinary, household eggtimer. One that lasts for three minutes, and three minutes only, exactly the time needed for a nicely boiled egg.

Only bigger.

it's not about how the bulb looks, it's about how the sand falls.


From: David Sander

And that, ladies and gentlemen qualifies as the most profoundly important statement of the year.


From: Paul Smith

As to my hourglass? Probably a frame made of a light shade granite but very ordinary glass within. Carved into the granite would be a number of different things. On one post would be assorted hats, including scholars cap, monks skullcap, a base ball cap with 'humorous' quote, broad brimmed cowboy hat but above them all a fools three horned hat. On another post would be carved pages and books (and a little monitor in amongst them).

The sand in the glass, would be of all different colours. The sand in the bottom bowl would have fallen into layers, marking the times of my life, the top glass gray as all the possibilities mix and the sand passing through casting rainbow shadows.

Hmm, not sure if that really sounds like me but maybe it's closer to who I want to be. Now though, since it's rude to arrive at a party empty handed, would anyone like a 'Dark Enchantment'? Only there's no rum truffles, sorry


From: Jens Ayton

I have a vague suspicion that my lifetimer is a rather erratic mechanical one, in the very approximate shape and colour of some vegetable[1] which plays a tasteless little tune instead of ringing. The latter is really quite unfair, since I don't even have a mobile phone.

[1] Or possibly a flower[2].
[2] Hedgehog, perhaps.


From: sparrow
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2000

Mine would be in a dark wood frame, with the hourglass in bubbly green glass. Fine, almost sparkly sand that looks like it could be moving in odd ways when you aren't looking at it directly ...


From: Richard Bos

It would look like a normal hourglass, though probably not a plain one; made from beechwood, perhaps, engraved, with a decent kind of glass. You know, a classic hourglass. One would be able to program the flow of the sand using a display in the base. One would probably do so in Befunge.


From: Gid Holyoake

> A solid block of brushed aluminium, with a machined vertical groove which is inset with a row of blue LED's

Hah.. nowhere near geeky enough.. mine's a digital timer!


From: Martin Julian DeMello

Wow - our imaginations seem to work startlingly alike. I had the monolith-material one (very clean lines, entirely black, including the 'glass' portion. The sand cannot be seen.) and the glowing blue one (almost invisible glass, the outline set off by the faintest of blue glows. The sand is likewise made up of almost invisibly ground glass, the filled region only detectible by the subliminal points of light playing through the interior and setting it off from the space-black empty region).

The third choice of hourglass has no frame. The glass is invisible, its shape discernible only by the sand swirling through it in complex flowlines. It seems to be constantly changing shape; after watching it for a while you realise that it's actually a rotating four-dimensional figure. It also seems to be indifferent to local gravity.


From: Jenny Radcliffe

Unfortunately, I suspect mine is rather boring. You know, sort of hourglass shaped and prosaic. And possibly plastic, because everything life hurls at me (and it's had a good go already) I survive OK.


From: Tamar
Date: 22 Dec 2000

Mine would be partly blue and partly the brown of natural wood, very dusty, tipped on its side amid a pile of books. The sand glows a little in the dim light and occasionally shifts back and forth a little by itself. The name is engraved on the wooden base in block capitals.


From: Lady Kayla

I hope mine would be almost impossible to find (and really annoy Death), regardless of what it looks like. And nearby there would be two smaller timers that to the casual eye were appearing to drain sand from mine at a fairly constant rate.


From: Medusa

Hmm, I think perhaps a cute little number in black with the complementary purple ribbon and frills trimmings, with a nice gold and silver snake design embellishing the stand.


From: Stephen C. Frost
Date: 23 Dec 2000.

Mine's your traditional wood and plain sand thingy,long, narrow, somewhat foxed, becoming shiny on top - possibly from bacon fat (maybe Albert's borrowed it sometimes) and definitely lurking somewhere at the back.


From: Flesh-eating dragon

Now that I've had a bit longer to think about it ...

Most of the hourglass is enclosed in a vaguely cylindrical wooden case (a deep, dark brown/maroon with gentle curves and a carved design of dragon's scales). The case is cut away on one side, the edge of the cut featuring delicate craftwork like a big mouth. Inside (and the inside looks several times bigger than the outside) there's a glowing, pulsing bulb of stained glass, featuring a design similar to this and the hollow for the sand is a thin tube that spirals from the upper half to the lower half. The bulb is connected to the case with wires: a circle of wires connecting the top of the bulb to the top of the case, and another circle connecting the bases. The circles are wider near the top and bottom of the case. If you watch, you can see little sparks of light drift along the wires away from the bulb. Another object inside the case - a background figure compared to the bulb itself - is a dragon (mostly bluegreen) climbing up the inside of the case, face turned toward the opening and carrying a golden cross in one hand. That's all on the inside of the case; now back to the outside. Between the main bit of the case and the very top there's a layer of something that looks like screwed up paper seen edge on. Between the main part and the base there's an outward slanting circumferential panel that is painted black and white to resemble the keys on a piano. The top and base are made of the same wood as the rest of the case, but without the scale patterns.

How does that sound?

Ammendum: The inside should be coloured to resemble the night sky. And that way the climbing dragon looks like it's climbing through space.

The cross, incidentally, is being held outward.


From: Sarah J Fortune

This is my first post so hello group.

Mine wouldn't contain sand. it would be a water timer filled with salt water, possibly with some small fish swimming in it.


From: Claire

Mine would be made of old oak, still a bit rough and lumpy where it hadn't been worn smooth yet. The glass would be that old, thick stuff, slightly tinted blue. It's be twisted, right in the middle, in a sort of transdimensional way, and the sand would start of black, running through to white as it passed through the twist.


From: Aquarion
Date: 24 Dec 2000

Hmm. Pondering, stibbons style, for a week and I cannot make a decision, so I throw this one for completeness:

What it looks like depends on who is looking at it.

And without explaining that, I withdraw back into semilurkerdom


From: Axel Kielhorn
Date: 29 Dec 2000

Mine would be like one I saw in Japan. It was shaped like a normal hourglass, but the sand (well, liquid) is flowing upward.


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